"I didn’t know till I was an adult that I was dyslexic—someone had to point it out to me. As a kid I taught myself to read with comics. My first one was an Action Comics with Superman. I think he was out in space fighting some alien menace.
"About six years ago I was back into reading comics heavily, and I thought, 'You know, I could probably write one of these.' So I found a friend to draw it, and we started making comics together. I wrote about six issues of my first comic, Honor Brigade. Then I wrote two books based on one of those characters, Toy Boy.
"Toy Boy has no powers. He’s more of a fighter, a Batman-type guy, but he uses toys as weapons, like rubber chickens that are filled with lead or water guns that shoot acid. He’s kind of insane. There’s also Mystery Girl, a girl with amnesia. She can absorb and reuse powers from anybody, but she never knows what power’s going to be available to her. Then there’s Living Log. He’s part man, part plant.
"I sell through Diamond, a big distributor that’s in all the comic-book shops in the world. Marvel uses them; everyone uses them. You have to be at least decent to get in their catalog. I was pretty excited when Honor Brigade got picked up, considering I had zero experience and my artist had never drawn a comic book before.
"The comic-book industry is not a great one to work in as a freelancer. They get taken advantage of because there are so many people who want to break into comics and so few paying jobs. You have an 18-year-old kid, and the publisher keeps telling him, 'I’ll pay you next week,' or whatever.
"So I volunteer with a group called Unscrewed that advises people on their contracts, gives advice on issues of nonpayment, makes people aware of publishers that are shady. We’ll help them pursue suits, and we’ve won several judgments against publishers. We cover their filing fees in most cases. It’s just a matter of them wanting to stand up for themselves and go to court. I’ve had big-time people who work in comics tell me that I shouldn’t do what I’m doing because I’m rocking the boat. That’s not acceptable, and if that keeps me from ever going to work for Marvel or DC, that’s just how it’s going to have to be.
"I’m working on a new book, 'Underneath.' I’ll have the first issue available at Wizard World Chicago this month in Rosemont. I’m a law clerk downtown, and every day I cross the Chicago River. I’ve seen the same homeless people there for almost 15 years now. I started thinking that they were actually heroes, and they were fighting some kind of secret war to keep us safe. I was crossing this bridge every day, so maybe they were protecting us from bridge trolls.
"There’s this pool, and when the moon is full, the pool opens, and out come trolls from another place. The only way to really kill them is with fire. There have been a lot of strange fires in Chicago, like the Great Fire and the Our Lady of the Angels fire, and they don’t really know what started them. It could be anything; why not trolls?"